Suffolk: Tough new anti-truancy rules could see families fined £120 if child misses just one day of school

Tough new rules on term-time holidays Tough new rules on term-time holidays

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
2:28 PM

Parents could be fined up to £120 if their child misses just one session of school, if tough new anti-truancy rules are introduced by Suffolk County Council.

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Proposals put before the local authority’s cabinet suggest an overhaul of the current Penalty Notice Code of Conduct – which some head teachers described as no longer “fit for purpose”.

Currently children have to miss 10 unauthorised sessions before being referred to the local authority, at which point parents are sent a letter of warning. If the pupil has a further unauthorised absence a fine will be imposed.

But these rules are described as out of date and no longer effective in a paper prepared for the council’s cabinet.

Council officers now want permission to issue an immediate fine of £60 per parent upon receiving a referral from a school informing them of an unauthorised absence.

Further unauthorised absences would be subject to the Education Welfare Service or, in the case of academies, referred directly for prosecution.

The council also said it was “not acceptable” that 229 schools didn’t use the current Penalty Notice Code of Conduct.

The proposed change was in response to the requests of schools, according to the council report.

Last night Howard Lay, head teacher of Samuel Ward Academy, said he was fully in favour of the proposal.

“It might sound punitive but I believe the more children miss school the more they miss out on achieving good grades which helps them in the future, and the more detrimental that will be to them,” he said.

“Schools generally do a really effective job at improving a young person’s capability in many areas, not just academic but vocational skills. For a child to miss out on that is potentially catastrophic.

“You look around the world at many countries where parents and pupils will do quite significant things to access education. Pupils walk miles and miles. In Britain it’s free.”

He added: “The more power the LA has to ensure that pupils are in school and not disengaging the better.”

However the secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Suffolk said fines weren’t the way forward.

Graham White added: “I don’t think that fining parents for taking their children out of school is going to have any impact at all.

“One of the reasons parents take their children out of school is holidays because it’s more expensive to take them away during the school break. But the savings that they make from doing that are greater than the fine.

“For me I don’t think it’s the right way forward, we need to educate parents and make the educational arguments about why children should be in school.”

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “As a busy parent myself, I know that it can sometimes seem necessary or desirable to take your child out of school.

“We have an excellent education welfare service in Suffolk and our staff work hard with police to educate parents about the need to ensure their children are in school.

But sometimes tough action is needed to enforce the point that a child’s education must always come first.

“If parents, teachers and head teachers combine their efforts in discourage truancy, educational standards in Suffolk will improve.”

17 comments

  • T Doff.... Not sure why you think losing pay is a sufficient penalty for going on strike. Don't know anyone to get paid for not turning up for work. The issue here is that when teachers don't work then pupils don't get lessons. If introducing fines for parents is to stop children missing lessons then surely someone else needs to be fined if they can't go to school because the school isn't open.

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    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

  • Why is there never any common sense applied to these situations. Yes excessive leave should have punnishments. However surely holidays, have there benefits. Children can learn so much on holidays be it in the uk or abroad. Geography, history, foreign languages. Only so much can be learnt in a classroom. I left school a few years ago now but despite what may be popular belief I have learnt a lot outside of school. I must also assess that those proposing this fine increase have no issues in financing there summer breaks. I can hear the argument for oh it will effecy there qualifications brewing. Just ask Richard Branson or Alan Sugar if qualifications are required to succeed in life.

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    Simon Palmer

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • And if the child "feels unwell" and doesn't want to go to school, and is biggerstronger than the parent what can the parent do? I recall one example when mother drove her child to school and the daughter refused to get out. I think I would have entered the school explained the situation and asked them what I should do? A fine is not necessarily the answer, especially if for whatever reason the family are unable to pay.

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    DALINE

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Malcolm's mate. I am a tax payer who resents my tax being wasted on providing education for people too selfish and arrogant to bring their children up properly. There are far too many children & their parents wandering gormlessly around Ipswich shops on school days

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    jane

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Sudders you do not know what you are talking about. As a teacher I can tell you that all schools are obliged to run 5 training days a year - this is to keep up-to-date with latest teaching practice, etc. I can also assure you that the majority of teachers would rather not have to do these and would much rather be in the classroom teaching their students. I hate PD days. However I also resent your comment about the 6 week holiday - the majority of teachers I know, myself included, work several hours each evening, and many more on top of that each weekend. In fact I work 4 days a week officially but actually work about 60 hours. My husband is also a teacher - we spend our evenings not communicating because we are both so busy working. Therefore those of us who sacrifice their much of their family life for work, really need their holiday - and many of us will spend a sizeable chunk of that holiday preparing for the next academic year. In fact this summer my treat will be to rewrite all schemes of work for Key Stage 3 to take into account all of the curriculum changes the government is bringing in. You also need to realise that the majority of teachers also do not believe that parents should be fined. Finally amsterdam81 teachers generally don't take unauthorised days off - you have to set cover lessons (which at 6am is a miserable affair) and then have to deal with the fallout when you return to work - it's easier just to go into work! I realise that some teachers are lazy but the majority of us are not and do not deserve to be tarred with the same brush!!!

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    alittlebitwoolly

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • @Malcolms(sic) mate: it looks as if you took far too many days off school yourself. You might have been able to write better English if you hadn't.

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    beerlover

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Correction School holidays

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    MALCOLMS MATE

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • As a tax payer shortly I am entitled to decide when I want a holiday with a family. Not every employer can give schools to there staff. I take it that the idiots who make the rules up are all single people .

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    MALCOLMS MATE

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • A better idea.... why not just tag all the children so that their location can be monitored 247... make Big Brother's job even easier. You could also take the fines directly from salary or benefit payments - who cares if the parents won't be able to afford to feed them when they do get home from school, so long as those boxes are ticked and those fines are collected...

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    Suffolk Boy

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • @ T Doff I think he was referring to the numerous 'training days' that teachers delight in taking on a Friday at regular intervals. Why they cannot fit the training into the 6 week summer holidays has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

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    Sudders

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • all of a sudden children will be ill for a week. Unless they are going round to houses to check on the sick of course!

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    The original Victor Meldrew

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • @amsterdam81 - If teachers go on strike, their pay is docked i.e. they are fined. Other than sickness, I'm not sure what other "unauthorised days off" may be. If they are not bona fide, then a teacher stands to lose his or her job; in common with practice in other public and private sector employment.

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    T Doff

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Could this just be revenue raisng Scheme for local Government in these times of Austerity ??

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    ChelmaCommuta

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Couldn't possibly be a just an easy "revenue raising" scheme for local Authority in these times of "austerity" could it... Easy Taget really...

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    ChelmaCommuta

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • oh for goodnes sake, never has the addage about giving a little man a little power been more ture than when it comes to looking at these people. Of course if there is a problem with a child's attendance action should be taken, perhaps including a fine. But a fine for a single day off ? The press are full of examples where heavy handed jobsworths try to stop children attending family funerals etc. If the headmaster feels attendance is becoming a problem then sure, refer the parents to the local authority, but give the professional the judgement call, not mandate a number of days or the criteria for granting leave.

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    Danny Brown

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Parents !, just remember these types of 'laws' in May 2015 ! and which party brought them in !

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    freedomf

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • How about introducing fines for teachers who take unauthorised days off?

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    amsterdam81

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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